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Putting the Yankees Injury Issues Last Season in Perspective

by Cary Greene

March 14, 2023


As is the case for not just the Yankees, but really for all teams, good health is the first piece towards getting the most out of a roster. Our own Andy Singer did his SSTN Weekly Mailbag last week and went in depth on the injury related failures the Yankees have experienced in recent times under Brian Cashman’s leadership.

Last season, the Yankees had a whopping 29 players miss a total of 1,563 games, with the Yankees spending 17.5 percent of their payroll ($46.8 million) on the games not even played by injured players, thanks to their cumulative in-season injured list which bit deep into their 40-man roster. However, before we raise the Red Cross flag and waive it in surrender, it’s probably best to look at the Yankees injury issues not from a perspective of the Yankees in a vacuum, but rather, I’d challenge writers and fans alike to evaluate the Yankees training staff against the rest of MLB.

Three Questions

1. How did injuries affect other teams?

2. Where did the Yankees rank on the list?

3. Why is it that Brian Cashman cited key injuries as the main reason the Yankees failed to get to the World Series?

The answers to all three of these questions are a bit surprising when we consider that the Yankees did seem to be absolutely ravaged by injuries to pretty important players last season, but the results actually show that the 1,563 games that Yankees players missed last season ranked as only the 11th worst in baseball, which placed them in the 65th percentile in league. This means the Yankees injury issues were 15% higher than league average, so while it wasn’t great news for the Yankees, 35% of MLB teams were worse off.

Indeed, last season eleven teams were even more injury stricken than the Yankees were. League average last season for players on the 40-man roster missing games was 1,467 per team.

17.5% of the Yankees payroll was spent to cover games that injured players missed, which was also very close to the MLB average of 17.3% - so characterizing the Yankees as being unusually snake bitten is a bit off base. Based on the money the Yankees are spending, the medical staff presently would get a grade of C-minus, because the results are just a smidge below what is the League norm in today’s game.

Providing some perspective, the below chart from my private reserve shows some rather interesting data across MLB on how injuries are really impacting teams. While the Yankees can certainly be characterized as a team that was hit pretty hard by injuries, the truth is that the Yankees were a touch worse than the middle of the league in this department.

By far, the most negatively impacted teams in the league last season were the Reds, Twins, Rays, Cubs, Nationals and Dodgers, Red Sox, Marlins, Pirates and Tigers, who all had far worse injury issues than the Yankees did.

Meanwhile, the teams the Yankees played in the expanded MLB playoffs last season were by contrast extraordinarily good at avoiding injuries. Finishing in the first percentile in MLB at avoiding injuries, the Guardians were easily the best in baseball in this department. Their 40-man roster only took a 708 total games missed hit, for which they only wasted a paltry $2.5 million, which was a miniscule 3.8% of their payroll.

Considering that 17.5 percent of the Yankees payroll was hampered by injuries, when you contrast that against a team like the Guardians, it might behoove Hal Steinbrenner ask Cashman to model whatever techniques the Guardians medical staff is utilizing - because Steinbrenner’s payroll is hemorrhaging.

In simple terms, the money Cashman is spending to field a team is highly inefficient and it does represent a major opportunity for the Yankees going forward, especially if the goal is to stay ahead of divisional rivals in this area - like the Blue Jays and Orioles who’s medical staffs both seem to be running rings around the often battered Yankees.

Getting past the Astros and slipping into the World Series is something the Yankees have consistently struggled with and each offseason, Cashman looks to close the gap but the Yankees never seem to be able to take the American League hill. Last season, the one key area where Houston had a decided advantage was in the injury department and during the ALCS, that advantage created a very imposing mountain for the then vastly depleted Yankees to try and climb.

Not only did Houston overtake and then pull away from the Yankees during the second half of the season, but they dispatched the Yankees very easily in the ALCS and the reason behind their success started with a roster that was able to maintain excellent overall health. The Astros were third best in the league (6th Percentile) at avoiding injuries, as their roster only took a 863 game injury hit, which accounted for 14.6% of their payroll allocation.

Many of the players the Yankees were counting on also slumped badly in the ALCS and coupled with the number of players that weren’t available, it was double whammy for the Yankees. The Yankees ALCS roster had the likes of Greg Weissert and Tim Locastro on it while available players like Aaron Hicks, Marwin Gonzalez, and Lucas Luetge were left off.

However, with so many other key players that likely would have made the roster all unavailable due to injuries, the Yankees weren’t a match for a consistent, healthy Astros team that was playing really good baseball at just the right time of year. Players that would likely have made the Yankees roster if healthy included the likes of relievers Ron Marinaccio, Mike King, Chad Green, Zack Britton, Scott Effross, and possibly even Stephen Ridings (who missed the full season). The position players who were unavailable was a list composed of DJ LeMahieu and Andrew Benintendi who both might have mattered a great deal.

Seemingly throwing salt on a gaping wound, Aroldis Chapman quit on his teammates as well, which combined with all the injuries to make the roster the Yankees fielded for the ALCS one that was nowhere near what it might have been like if only it were at full strength.

In years past, it was especially important for teams to be able to remain as healthy as possible and thus be at full strength throughout the regular season - as qualifying the playoffs wasn’t easy. But let’s face it - it’s no longer very hard for a team to qualify for the expanded playoffs, especially for teams that spend money and that can afford to stockpile some depth.

Nowadays, once the playoffs start, it’s important for teams to be as healthy as possible and in that regard, the Yankees were far from being healthy last season, once the playoffs began. What really hurt the Yankees last season was the aforementioned timing of many of the injuries, as most of the key players went down in the second half of the season and either never made it back or did make it back but just couldn’t get back to where they were previously at.

Ice cold is a good term to describe how the Yankees offense seized up in the ALCS, with Kiner-Falefa, Trevino, Carpenter, Donaldson, Judge, Cabrera, Higashioka, Locastro and Peraza batting a combined .111 against the dominating Astros pitching staff.

Let’s hope this season finds the Yankees in much better organizational health than it was last season.



Apr 21, 2023

Thanks! I make it a point to live a healthy lifestyle. But occasionally, different life circumstances try to upset this equilibrium and instill panic in my mind, which makes me depressed. I did, however, choose to visit It turned out to be a service for mental health support. And it's incredibly helpful to me.


Mar 14, 2023

Eric Cressey has done a good job of reducing soft tissue injuries. Some of these guts are simply too big. He introduced a flexibility based system that has cut down on those types of injuries. They need to stick to it!

Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Mar 14, 2023
Replying to

In 2020, Cressey was hired as the new Director of Player Health and Performance and his staff saw 16 players shelved for various injuries resuling in 393 days lost, squandiring $19.7 million in payroll for the strike shortened season.

Then, in his first "full season" during 2021, the Yankees lost 35 players to various injuries, with 1,832 days lost and $51.7 million in payroll squandered.

Last season, as I mentioned above, the Yankees lost 29 players to injuries resulting in 1,563 days lost and "only" $46.5-million in payroll squandered.

Considering that in 2019, the Yankees lost 30 players to injuries resulting 5,134 days lost and a whopping $167.8 million in payroll blown. So yes, Cressey is steadily doing better and…


Mar 14, 2023

Let's not forget that the Yankees played the Astros in the regular season before most of the injuries that hurt them in second half and while they did win two games on walk offs they didn't have a lead for a single inning prior to the walk off hits. The Yankees' problems with the Astros go well beyond their injury issues.

Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Mar 14, 2023
Replying to

That's the other side which I briefly touched on in the article. The Yankees offense was badly squelched by Astro's pitching - so yes, a very fair and accurate point.


Mar 14, 2023

Great work in assembling your chart. A couple of things I’d be curious about to see how they effected the data…

Bader and Montas missed time with injuries they had before being acquired. Where would they rank without them?

Britton missed almost the entire year with TJS. How much did insurance cover of his salary? How does that alter the percentage?

I would also argue someone that was in the lineup during the ALCS, was still suffering from effects of an injury. Matt Carpenter didn’t get enough at bats to get his timing right. If he was the same player as he was earlier in the season, they would have steamrolled the Astros. But with a low salary, it would…

Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Mar 14, 2023
Replying to

Thanks bbcfan64, the data factored in only the time players like Montas and Bader spend while actually with the Yankees.

As to the insurance question, covering his salary, insurance payments to a deam don't count at reducing the luxury tax. So in all liklihood, Steinbrenner was reimburced through insurance but it matters very little.

I agree with you that Carpenter was still suffering from the effects of the injury in the playoffs and I said that in the article too. While this isn't measured in the numbers used to evaluate the Yankees injury issues and compare them to the League, it certainly hampered the Yankees in the playoffs. My feeling, as I said, was that Carpenter probably shouldn't have been…

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